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Project X Zone Review

I am a big fan of strategy RPGs.  Maybe it comes from my love for a good game of chess or maybe it’s because when a lot of work is put into a tactics RPG, the pay off for playing the game correctly is extremely rewarding.  Blah blah blah Final Fantasy X is the best RPG ever made, but it’s really not.  Final Fantasy Tactics was a true game of intellect and strategy and I will always hail that as my favorite RPG of all time.

So every time a hyped up tactics/strategy/turn-based RPG game comes out, I must play it.  Enter Namco X Capcom circa 2005.  Never came out in North America.  Exit Namco X Capcom.  Enter Project X Zone circa 2013.  Came out in North America! A million characters announced! Some from some of my favorite games like Chris and Jill from Resident Evil, FRANK WEST from Dead Rising (possibly my favorite video game character of all time), Flynn and Yuri from Tales of Vesperia, Ryu and Ken and Chun from Street Fighter, even Bruce Willis dubbed Bruno Dillinger from Dynamite Cop.  What could go wrong? This is like a super crossover game with a bunch of my favorite characters in one of my favorite type of video games. [Note: all of these screenshots are from the ones Namco provided, so some are in English, some are in Japanese.  Deal with it.]

First off, I got hooked up with the limited edition version which was the same price as the vanilla version but included a poster, a soundtrack, an art book, and actually comes with the normal 3DS cart case (thank the heavens).  I will never use the poster, I opened the art book once, and although the soundtrack is actually really good on this game, the soundtrack CD is still sealed, and will forever be so.

This game has it all.  Plenty of jiggling busts, side boob, butt cracks, camel toes, sexual innuendo, BRUCE WILLIS, etc.  I guess now we know that Morrigan from Darkstalkers just doesn’t have nipples.  That or they are just misplaced.  You know, since she’s like not human and all…

Story

Okay, so this game is just absolutely silly.  And I mean that in both negative and positive connotations.

Negatively, the story literally makes almost zero sense.  Characters just started appearing out of nowhere due to this portal stone thing so of course all of the good guys are trying to investigate the matter and figure out that all the bad guys are trying to utilize the trans-dimensional travel to obtain all the resources needed to take over the universe.  Honestly,  you really can’t expect anything more than that and I applaud the developers and designers for actually trying to have it make sense.

Positively, the characters acknowledge how silly the situation is and barely take it seriously.  Some of the characters just wanna fight and get better, others just want to find out what is going on from their own curiosity or for their own personal agenda of capturing their own respective bad guys.  For instance, obviously Ryu (Street Fighter) and Akira (Virtua Fighter) just wanna get better, while the dot Hack characters, Kite and Blackrose, are somewhat driven to save their own “World”.

Aside from that, there are some really funny moments in the game.  99% of all the female characters are dressed super provocatively so after Frank West joins the party, and when each new female character pops up, he takes his camera out and takes a photo and gets a “Perfect! Erotica” for each one with a couple of “Drama” exceptions on his partner Hsien-Ko and Selvaria from Valkyria Chronicles.

All in all, there is no real point to the story at all.  I can’t hate on it because there has to be some kind of trade-off with the bonus of putting all of these characters in one game.

Combat!

Gameplay wise, the combat/battle system in the game is actually really fresh.  When you attack an enemy, you are given a number of attacks, and the point is to keep a combo going by using those attacks to juggle the enemy.  The more attacks you dish out, the more XP (cross power) you obtain.  XP is used to execute special moves (with sweet animations) to deal maximum amount of damage.

Before we get into that I should explain the positioning/support tactics.  Each unit is a pair unit (ie. Ryu and Ken) and those pair units are fixed.  There are also solo units as well (ie. BRUCE WILLIS) and you can match any solo unit with any pair unit.  Pair units have their own abilities but the solo units add a tactical factor because they bring their own set of abilities too.

The blocking/positioning tactics in this game add yet another level of depth for battle strategy.  Any adjacent pair unit to the active pair unit can act as support for the active pair unit.  So each “attack” sequence can be mixed up with the number of attacks from the active unit, an attack from the solo unit with the pair unit and the adjacent support pair unit.

XP, as mentioned before, is used for in battle abilities (special moves) or in-between grid abilities, like healing other units, nullifying an enemy’s block or counter before a battle, or powering up attack and defense levels before each battle.  Now the maximum amount of XP% will top out at 100% by doing regular attacks or taking attacks from enemy units, but this can be increased to a mega maximum of 100% by performing Cross Hits.  Cross hits occur during battle sequences when any two of the three attacking units (pair unit, solo unit, support unit) land a hit simultaneously.  This will also cause the enemy to stay in place, which will allow you to time your attacks more easily.

Special moves can only be executed for any pair unit during attacks or counter attacks if the XP meter is at 100% and do not count as one of the attacks.  Also the active attacking pair unit can have up to five normal attacks.  If all five normal attacks are used, you will be able to do an extra normal attack.

Phew, that’s a lot of information.  Basically, with 100% XP (which you also can accumulate in real time during a battle, which is another strategic factor), you can perform a total of 9 moves on an enemy. 5 normal attacks + an extra normal, solo attack, support attack and finally a special move (which should be used last because the battle is over after a special move).  Some abilities that require XP can allow an extra solo attack or support attack as well, so maximum amount of moves can be 11 for major damage.

Also, with 100% XP after characters have leveled up enough, you can use that XP meter to attack multiple units at once.  There’s a trade off with this though.  The more units being simultaneously attacked, the less damage to each unit, because it will split the damage between all units being attacked.  This is a good strategy for multiple enemies at low HP, and Chun acknowledges this by referencing it as “clean up”.

When an enemy attacks one of your units, you can spend XP meter to do one of the following: counter attack (20% XP), defend (20% XP), full defend (60% XP), or nothing (0% XP but will gain XP from being attacked).  When you defend, it will decrease the total damage done to your unit.  When you full defend, you take no damage.  When you counter attack, it will open up a miniature battle sequence with limited normal attacks, a solo attack and special move (if you have 100% XP).

There are three types of status ailments that happen after a unit is attacked (for both your units and enemy units).  If a unit is stunned, its turn is skipped, and cannot block if attacked.  If a unit is poisoned, it will receive damage at the beginning of its turn.  If a unit is down, the unit cannot counter and your units will not be able to use any items (the items replenish HP, XP and cure status ailments).

That is about it for all of the battle system.  No weapons or armor or pair/support bonuses, but this battle system was easily the best part of the game.

 Aesthetics

The 3D effects are definitely nice to use but not necessary at all.  The animation sequences are really neat and the special move attack executions in 3D look awesome but it doesn’t really add anything to the game.  In my opinion it’s completely unnecessary and just eats up battery.  The game looks great either way.

Presentation-wise, it’s pretty cookie cutter on terms of menus, prompts and character select screens.  Nothing to write home about, but nothing distracting or out of place.  Not quite MEH but not at YEH!

Difficulty

The challenge factor of the game is kind of a double edged sword.  On one side, the game makes it really hard for you to get a game over (usually).  Using items doesn’t take up a turn so you can literally use as many items as you want before attacking or ending a turn for a unit.  Also, there is no proximity limit for using items or abilities to affect other units.  You can heal units from across each map with no problem.

Throw in a couple of extremely difficult enemies towards the end of some of the later chapters or actual mission objectives (ie. “standby this wall with this unit by the end of turn 7”) and the game can get really frustrating.  Some actual mission objectives are that certain characters cannot get knocked out.  And judging by the fact that there are pretty much a million characters in your party at once for most of the game, it can be tough to keep track of individual units.

This, in addition to the fact that the chapters are basically just the battles and can take up to 3 hours of gameplay to complete, you may find yourself wanting to throw your 3DS into oncoming traffic when getting a game over after getting so close and having to start over from the beginning.

The game does allow you to quick save in the middle of each battle, but with such weird objectives, it’s hard to determine when it is actually a good time to quick save for the purpose of knowing you will lose.  I ended up quick saving only when the chapter was split into multiple parts/battles or when I needed to close the game to check up on my Animal Crossing town.

The game definitely took some physical grinding to get done in around 3 weeks.  50+ hours isn’t terrible considering the fact that I had put in over 200 hours+ on some other tactics RPGs over the years.  Handhelds really are the perfect console for these types of games in my opinion for this reason alone.

Closing Thoughts

The game does have some pretty frustrating flaws but all in all, it was a really good game for what it was.  The combat system was awesome and the characters were great.  It had just enough silliness to make it worthwhile.  If you are into strategy games, definitely play this one, it’s worth the $39.99.  If you are really into traditional RPGs with really deep stories you will probably hate this.

I personally really liked it. I give it a 4 out of 5.

  • 4/5

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Jon

Editor/Presenter at ANTiFanboy.com